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ALPENA, Mich. — Ugly sweater parties are a relatively new, but very popular, holiday tradition. But why do we love these gaudy garments?

From what we’ve seen, we think it’s about an excess of enthusiasm. A “season’s greetings” sweater is only appropriate so many days a year. An outfit with built–in lights is uncomfortable at the office. And Rudolph’s pom–pom nose won’t last long.

They’re silly and impractical, but Marc Harger—of the Office lounge and grill in Oscoda— said that’s why they’re so fun for parties.

“Christmas is a stressful time, so it’s good to get them out, de–stress, and have a good time. And maybe make fun of themselves a bit.”

And maybe that’s the key to their popularity: self–awareness. They allow us to laugh at ourselves by representing the over–the–top nature of modern Christmas.

As for Harger, he’s getting in on the fun himself with an ugly sweater party at his bar this Saturday night.